California-based gun company Ares Armor is currently fending off efforts from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives to seize not only their 80 percent AR lowers but also the names of 5,000 customers who bought them.
The company has filed a restraining order against a pending ATF raid on the company, which, according to Dimitrios Karras, CEO of Ares Armor, was communicated to him through his lawyer on March 10.
“I was advised that the BATFE had offered to forego obtaining a warrant if Ares Armor was willing to: (a) Hand over all of EP Armory’s 80 percent Lowers, (b) Turn over Ares Armor customer’s private information to the BATFE,” said Karras in a statement.
“In exchange for turning over our customer’s private information, the BATFE said that they would not ‘raid Ares Armor’s facilities and would not pursue ‘criminal’ charges. This made me feel as if I was being extorted,” said Karras.
At the heart of the matter is a series of polymer AR-style 80 percent lowers that Ares had purchased from EP Armory and was reselling. The ATF has argued, based on a determination letter, that the lower is a regulated firearm and not a gun part.
According to Karras, the ATF has incorrectly classified the EP Armory product as a firearm based on faulty information and contends that it is no different from others he has sold in the past. Bakersfield-based EP Armory itself, as well as the home of its owner Chris Cook, was the target of an ATF raid on March 7.
“It seems like ATF is taking the view that the lowers are legally a ‘firearm’ under the Gun Control Act because the can be ‘readily converted’ to a ‘firearm’ So in ATF’s mind they are transferring a ‘firearm” without a NICS check,’ a firearms industry explained to Guns.com Thursday on condition of anonymity.
“While people speak of it, there is no ’80% rule’ The problem is ATF cannot give any meaningful guidance as to when a piece of metal is just a piece of metal and when it is a ‘receiver’ (a ‘firearm’). In part this is because the case law interpreting ‘readily convertible’ is all over the map, up to and including access to a machine shop for a week,” the expert elaborated.
Karras has obtained a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) from a federal district judge in this matter and is vowing not to turn over any names to the ATF.
“The BATFE has expressed interest in obtaining Ares Armor’s customer list in the past and is now attempting to strong-arm us with undue threats based on information they know to be incorrect. Our customer’s privacy is of the utmost importance to us. I cannot in good moral conscience turn over a list of names to the BATFE just because they unduly threaten us with an unjust raid based on information they know to be false,” Karras wrote on his company’s website.
Ares, a veteran-owned small business in National City, California, is no stranger to controversy, having recently fended off assaults by the city over its rooftop sign. The sign, with an image of an AR-15, has the words “Unserialized. No Registration. Legal.” across the bottom.
As of Thursday the company is still listing several 80 percent lowers for sale on their site, with the exception of the polymer EP lowers.
The ATF advised Guns.com they do not comment on ongoing investigations.
Both Ares and the ATF are set to face off in court on March 20 for a preliminary injunction hearing. Until then, Karras states that, “I am now in constant fear for the safety of my employees, my customers and myself.”